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Nick Pirone

Development of Guidelines for Playground Surfacing Based on Field Testing

Nick Pirone ’23
Brooke Ewer, Eric Kennedy, Anna Bourke, Heather Olsen
Faculty Mentor(s):
Eric Kennedy, Biomedical Engineering
Funding Source:
James L. D. and Rebecca Roser Research Fund

Many different playground surfaces are used in the United States for fall-related injury protection. These surfaces are categorized as unitary or loose-fill and there is a strong interest in quantifying their performance to ensure they are meeting head-injury safety standard ASTM F1292, which dictates a compliant head injury criteria (HIC) metric of less than 1000.

Analysis for this study was performed from a randomized sample of 103 public playgrounds across the United States, which was collected by the National Program of Playground Safety on behalf of the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Field testing data included analysis of safety surfacing, including fall height, depth of the surface material, and resulting head injury criteria (HIC) score to interpret performance trends in ASTM-compliant HIC scores.

The results indicate for all materials that as the fall height increases, the surfacing’s performance decreases. A similar trend applies for surface depth—as the surface depth decreases, the surfacing’s consistency decreases. While all the surfaces display similar overall trends, there are a few differences as well. Some surface materials appear to reach a fall height at which performance decreases regardless of surfacing depth. Other surfaces demonstrate a linear relationship between fall height and surface depth. Preliminary data tables showing the relative performance of surface depth to specific fall height ranges were developed for each surface material. From these preliminary data tables, recommendation tables were created as a cost-efficient alternative to using an impact testing device.

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